Monday, April 21, 2008

Two and a half star day.

People are cynical about democracy these days. This is one of the terrible side effects of the War on Terror. The US's attempts to spread democracy by force have made it easy for dictators and their apologists to claim democratisation is some sort of Western imperialist plot. Worse, the war has made resurgent the racist belief that certain countries or certain peoples are just resistant to democracy.

There was a more optimistic time. It kicked off with the non-violent People Power Revolution in the Philippines in 1986, which resulted in the ouster of Marcos. Three years later, the Berlin Wall came down piece by piece and the Soviet republics fell like dominoes.

People Power at Theatre Passe Muraille takes us back to 1986; it's nice to see some optimism about democracy on stage (even if we know the Philippines needed a second People Power Revolution in 2001 and is still plagued by vote-rigging scandals and states of emergency). I give the show 2.5/4 stars in today's Globe.

Meanwhile, at Buddies in Bad Times, Sky Gilbert's Happy: A Very Gay Little Musical is a lousy musical, but an interesting play. I'll take a flawed, but stimulating show over a better-crafted, but dull one any day. I give it 2.5 stars, despite the fact that I compare it to a baby being smothered with bubble wrap.

On the other hand: Robert Cushman rips into People Power ("For the second time in a row, the main stage at Theatre Passe Muraille is given over to a show that doesn't deserve to be there"), while The Sun's John Coulbourn gives it 3/5 stars and Eye (someone other than Hoile) gives it 4/5. Was there no Star review?

As for Happy, Richard Ouzounian gives it a single star as does Eye Weekly's Christopher Hoile. The Sun's John Coulbourn is slightly more generous: 2/5.


Anonymous said...

out of curiosity... you obviously liked a lot of things about people power. or at least didn't equate it to infanticide. so why does it get the same star rating as happy? i've often wondered this, where the star rating leads me to believe the review will be scathing, but i'm surprised to find it's mostly positive and even handed. it just sounds like a 3 star review, at least. and happy sounds like a 1 or 2 star review.

J. Kelly said...

Hi Anonymous... Good question. I'm not sure if this is the proper forum for me to address it, but in short: If I had my way we'd get rid of the star system altogether. A work of art is simply not quantifiable.

It is, however, something that readers and some theatre companies want and so I assign a star rating to each show.

But I would always encourage people to read my full reviews (and everyone's full reviews). I try to describe the shows, not just give my opinion, so people can make up their mind as to whether or it's worth their while.

Anonymous said...

agreed. art is not quantifiable. unfortunately, the star system is so ingrained in the consciousness of the public (read: audiences) their decisions of what to see and what not to are often defined by that system. and, sadly, we live in a culture of headline-readers who not only attach the star value to the play being reviewed, but to the review itself. more people will read the full text of a 4 star review than will read a 2 star review. and even then, their interpretation of the text is influenced by the ascribed worth of the subject. how do we solve this? if it's by random assignation of the star system, then let's just give everything a 4 (or a 5, depending on the rag) and call the playing field even. at least then audiences will read all the reviews.

anyway. thanks for responding to my post. in other news, i liked your interview with audrey tautou on your site. she's a knockout. seriously i don't know how you didn't pass out from her sheer hotness.